Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Barott, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

David Anderson, EdD

Committee Member

David Clifford, PhD

Committee Member

Ronald Flowers, EdD


The appointment of individuals to interim administrative roles is a practice that is common within postsecondary institutions in the United States. The purpose of this study was to answer three questions: (a) what were the experiences and perspectives of individuals who worked in interim administrative roles, (b) what were the organizational rationalities that led to the appointment of people to interim administrative roles, and (c) what were the experiences and perspectives of individuals who worked under interim leadership? This was a qualitative research study that was framed through the constructivist paradigm. The study took place at a public research university in the Midwestern United States. It is a complex organization that has numerous undergraduate and graduate programs, a medical school, and a law school. The annual enrollment is just under 30,000 students. Data were gathered through interviews with employees of the organization who had worked in interim administrative positions; analysis of university documents, department memos, and newspaper articles; and the researcher's participant observation. Core technology, marginality and centrality of positions within the organization, resource dependency, and conflict were key concepts for the conceptual framework of this study. Three categories of interim administrators were identified in this study: (a) interim academic administrators, (b) interim support services administrators, and (c) high level interim administrators. The results of the study showed that there are multiple meanings for the use of interim administrators for the organization and the person, and the meanings vary depending on context. The needs of the organization often do not align with the expectations of interim administrators, leading to interim appointments that are forced and negative experiences. During periods of conflict, there are opportunities for interim administrators in high-level positions to leverage promotions if they understand the political forces and manage conflict. Finally, this study showed that while the organization conserves resources by placing people into interim roles, there are also significant costs. Keeping interim deans in place for extended periods of time threatens to slow down strategic planning and the hiring and promotion of tenure-track faculty. Administrators who serve as interims for long periods are prone to burnout.

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